By Adam Beebe
Business Development Manager
BizLaunch: Arlington County’s Small Business Assistance Network
As the old saying goes, “No one plans to fail, but many fail because they don’t have a plan.” Perhaps in no pursuit is the wisdom of this adage more applicable than entrepreneurship.
Virtually every business assistance program, how-to book, seminar, and entrepreneurship advisor will emphasize the importance of writing a business plan before starting an actual business. At its core, a business plan represents an invaluable opportunity for entrepreneurs to think both strategically and critically about their businesses.
Perhaps one of the most widely used business planning tools is the SWOT analysis, which helps entrepreneurs identify key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats affecting their ability to achieve their business objectives. Although the SWOT strategic planning method provides a useful framework for entrepreneurs who wish to analyze the internal and external factors affecting their businesses, it comes with limitations.
For one, SWOT tends to oversimplify the complex issues facing a business. And although it’s a wonderfully flexible tool, SWOT provides no guidance for how entrepreneurs can take advantage of identified opportunities and overcome challenges. Lastly, because the results of a SWOT analysis are not measurable, it is difficult for entrepreneurs to prioritize results and plan next steps.
The BizLaunch Solution
That’s why Arlington County’s Small Business Assistance Network BizLaunch created BizQuiz, an online business assessment tool that helps entrepreneurs think critically through the most important aspects of their company.
The need for this original approach became clear to us several years ago, when we saw the limitations of traditional business-planning tools. Due to the uniqueness of our clients’ entrepreneurial endeavors, we realized they needed an assessment tool that would help them measure, break down, and prioritize the complex strategic issues facing their businesses and business ideas.
To develop and implement BizQuiz, we partnered with the Business Transformation Group, a management and technology consulting services company that provides cost-effective management expertise to clients and the businesses they support.
It took more than a year to perfect this online assessment, which takes about an hour to complete and evaluates how well a business is performing across seven critical managerial best practice areas, including business planning, customer relations, and financial management.
For entrepreneurs who are still in the idea phase, the BizQuiz identifies the real-world opportunities and challenges related to their concepts.
Putting the Assessment to Work
We realize, of course, that the one-on-one training that we offer at BizLaunch is the key to helping our clients succeed. That’s why the BizQuiz isn’t just an hour-long test. Users also:
- Receive instant, on-screen results in a color-coded bar graph.
- The assessment also benchmarks a user’s results against those of other local entrepreneurs who have taken the BizQuiz. In addition to results, users also receive personalized resource recommendations on their BizQuiz dashboards.
- These recommendations are specifically tailored to the user’s needs because they are based on each user’s individual results. A full copy of the user’s results is then sent to a BizLaunch counselor, who reviews the results.
- Entrepreneurs who complete the BizQuiz sign up for an extremely high-quality one-on-one counseling session, in which the conversation and resulting recommendations are specifically focused on the entrepreneur’s current challenges and opportunities.
- The entrepreneur leaves the one-on-one session with a written plan of action (a “Premium Results Report”) for improving his or her business practices, including specific next steps.
- Armed with this personalized plan of action, entrepreneurs are then better equipped to decide which of the many BizLaunch workshops, events, and resources are most relevant to their particular growth needs.
While there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all business assessment, the BizQuiz takes strategic business planning to the next level. Its distinct diagnostic, benchmarking, resource, and action-planning components offer a rich learning experience for entrepreneurs at all stages of business start-up and expansion.
Try it for yourself: http://bit.ly/thebizquiz.
About Arlington Economic Development
Arlington Economic Development (AED) is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of an economically competitive and sustainable community, and the creation of exciting, diverse, and amenity-rich places. AED provides visionary leadership and superior services to Arlington’s business community, its tourism industry, and its real estate development. It comprises the following operating groups:
- Arlington Cultural Affairs creates an environment that encourages innovation and excellence within the Arlington arts community. A national model for regional arts support, Cultural Affairs provides programs and services that build community and transform lives by enhancing enjoyment and understanding of, and participation in, the arts. The unit also includes Artisphere, Arlington’s urban arts center that features four distinct performance venues, three visual art galleries, a 4,000 square-foot ballroom, and a free Wi-Fi town square. With intimate co-located spaces and multiple programs occurring simultaneously, Artisphere was designed as a space where people and art collide. With programming ranging from contemporary visual art, Shakespeare, late-night dance parties, and multicultural film fests to spoken word, chamber music, family programs, and more, the wide array of offerings are as diverse as its audience, and are presented in a fresh and less formal environment. For more information, visit www.arlingtonarts.org and www.artisphere.com.
- Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) promotes Arlington as the best place to stay when visiting the Washington, DC, region. Positioning Arlington to individual leisure and business travelers, as well as to professional meeting planners, ACVS acts as an information clearinghouse, a meeting management consultant, and a destination marketing and promotional agency. Visit the Arlington Convention & Visitors Service Web site, www.stayarlington.com.
- The Business Investment Group (BIG) offers a wide array of services to welcome and support start-ups, relocating and existing businesses, and nonprofits. BIG professionals serve as liaisons between business, the real estate community, and other Arlington County departments to find creative solutions that optimize their experience in Arlington.
- The Real Estate Development Group (REDG) provides technical assistance on commercial office, retail, and hotel development opportunities within Arlington. It monitors competitive market conditions and structures and manages a variety of public-private partnerships. REDG also provides advice and assistance on enhancing the appearance of commercial properties, and serves as a liaison between the development community and Arlington County government agencies.
For more information, visit arlingtonvirginiausa.com.